When team members hear the words "role-playing," they often respond with a groan. But role-playing has gotten a bad rap. To turn that reputation around and use role-playing to its full potential, think of it as practice.
At Firstline Live in Kansas City, Mo., Dr. Ernie Ward Jr. pointed to Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps as someone who role-plays success. "Michael Phelps didn't slide by in practice and save his high gear for the games in Beijing," said Dr. Ward, owner of E3 Management and Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C. "He practiced full speed every day for five or six hours."
Veterinary team members must practice too. "If you can't do the practice, you can't do the work," Dr. Ward says. He suggests every team member role-play how to talk to clients about every product the practice sells and every routine diagnosis and question. For instance, the receptionist should role-play the practice's standard response to a potential client who calls asking the price of a spay.
To ensure role-playing is successful at your clinic, make it nonthreatening. The practice manager or team member who's in charge of training should role-play first. This provides an example for team members to follow, and eases the tension. And don't be too harsh on team members who don't get it right the first time. Remember, role-playing is practice, and as long as team members work at it, they'll be ready when the time comes to win with clients.